Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Body Snatchers and Trickery, Oh My!

The Mourning Emporium

By Michelle Lovric
$17.99, ages 10 and up, 448 pages

Get ready for cries of lackaday, as Venice's most reviled traitor returns from the ocean deeps and tries to crush the city once and for all, in this wildly imaginative companion to The Undrowned Child.

Once again it's up to Teodora the "Undrowned Child" of an ancient Venetian prophesy, her best friend Renzo "the Studious Son," and a band of pirate-talking mermaids to outsmart traitor Bajamonte Tiepolo, an assassinated noble. 

This time, however, Bajamonte may be too formidable to stop, as he conjures up blood-sucking sea creatures, allies with two unscrupulous exiles and an army of ghost convicts, and expands his terror to England.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Poem as Big as New York City

Illustrated by Masha D'yans
Adapted by Melanie Maria Goodreaux
Edited by Teachers & Writers Collaborative
Foreward by Walter Dean Myers
Universe, 2012
$19.95, ages 5 and up, 38 pages

Winged pencils fly through a canyon of skyscrapers in New York City, as a poem rises from the streets and takes off through the pages of a picture book.

The poem, both written on the pages and personified there in art, is an exhilarating read and the result of an innovative series of writing workshops in the city's public schools.

In 2008, a group of teachers and writers asked students ages 6-18 years old to stretch their imaginations and share deep down what they see and feel when they look around their city.

The idea was to celebrate New York and as poet Walter Dean Myers writes in a foreword, inspire a "cultural reweaving of the familiar." Stale ideas of the city were to be discarded and glorious new ones, ushered in.

Then all of the poems were gathered together and poet Melanie Maria Goodreaux, who heads the project for the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, pieced words, feelings and ideas from each of them into one big poem.

"The children of New York City gave me stacks of poems on hundreds of loose leaf pages to craft this unprecedented work," Goodreaux writes in an editor's note. "They scribbled lines about how big they imagined this poem to be and wrote about their love for the city in wobbling kid-created cursive…"

The result was a melding of perspectives, descriptions, alliterative verse and sound words into a poem that feels almost as big and bold and diverse as the city itself -- a poem that when read aloud feels like it has the energy of a chorus behind it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cecil The Pet Glacier

By Matthea Harvey
Illustrated by Giselle Potter
$17.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

Ruby can't relate to her eccentric parents and she's determined to be nothing like them -- until one day an offbeat little pet melts his way into Ruby's heart and shows her that being quirky is really okay.

In this wonderful, droll picture book, Harvey tells the story of straight-laced Ruby who gets stuck with a tiny glacier for a pet, when all she really wanted was a dog, something typical, not at all strange like all the stuff her parents like.

Ruby has always felt uptight about her parents' odd professions and unusual past times. Her dad, Mr. Small, sculpts topiaries for a living and is so into it that in the off-season, when he has nothing to do, he trims his beard to look like a crocodile. Her mother, a tiara designer, is equally passionate and can't resist wearing sparkly bands wherever she goes.

Neither one of the Smalls seems to care what anyone thinks, or perhaps they're just oblivious to outside opinion. Either way, Mr. and Mrs. Small blissfully live according to their own whims and in plain view of everyone. So why doesn't Ruby want to live this way too?

Friday, September 14, 2012


Written & illustrated by Holly Hobbie
$16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-7

A girl catches a toad in her hands, then lets him spring away and be free again, as she realizes there's more joy in letting him go than making him stay.

In this lovely picture book, Toot & Puddle creator Holly Hobbie chronicles the wondrous journey of a toad named Gem to her garden and a touching encounter there between him and her granddaughter Hope.

The journey through spring is told without words and is bookended by two letters: One from Hobbie to Hope, dedicating the book to her and Gem, and the other is a reply from Hope, thanking her grandmother for bringing Gem back to her through pictures.

The story begins in a field of newly sprouted dandelions. Gem is gazing at a butterfly flitting by one of the blossoms and everything seems right in the world. But then, out of nowhere, a car rolls by, spitting gravel from a tire, and Gem tumbles head-over-heels off the lane.